Conrad-Johnson PV-10AL Preamplifiers

PV-10AL

Tube preamp

User Reviews (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10  
Rajeev J   AudioPhile [Aug 31, 2008]
Strength:

very open sound-stage, detail and transparent. (remember to replace pre-amp tubes once every 3-4 years of normal palyback) don't use old tubes on pre-amps!
power amps are different because most output tubes can be biased. preamp tubes cannot.
other strengths: very good control over the power amp, lets the music through from source component unhindered, hence will expose bad recordings as well!
overall presentation of instruments, and depth are excellent, pitch and timbre are outstanding! true live music indeed!

Weakness:

none whatsoever, other than no detachable power cord. the power cord is fixed type. C-J's newer models are all IEC type now. even the PFR I used for many years had a fixed power cord. perhaps c-j didn't want them to be detachable at the time. don't know...

Previous preamp used was a c-j PFR, previous to that I used a PV8, combined with C-J premier 11A and MV50 power amps. speakers used at the time Magneplanar MG3.5/R (please see review for MV60se-posted Aug 31, 2008).
I managed to get hold of a PV10AL in mint condition (not too sure date of manufacture) and partnered this little gem with an awesome c-j MV60se. driving a pair of older maggies (MG3A), boy what a combination! the control level ability this little preamp has compared to the c-j preamps I used previously are second to none. I don't have to play too loud either to achieve realistic levels ( level control set at the 9 o'clock position) works just fine. then again for certain speakers you may require less or more depending on the sensitivity. the maggie MG3A is rated at 85dB 4ohms, and the tweeter dips to around 2ohms sometimes; the MV60se and pv10AL have no problem at all whatsoever driving these speakers. I have never increased the volume to over 10 o'clock to achieve loud realistic levels. the key to getting pure "undisturbed" sound or signal transfer is to position the speakers very critically and precisely. every type of speaker has it's own design principles, thus will also have it's own optimal placement, which you have to experiment on. please follow the manufacturer's recommendations. many so called "audiophiles" think they know it all! infact many of them don't even know what their listening to or how to listen for that matter. you cannot achieve good sound by just un-packing the boxes, connecting a few wires and truning the system on expecting everything to fall into place. you have t have patience and virtue, in other words you have to be mature! I am at the age of 35 now, was 25 when when I owned my very first c-j gear. loved the sound, but always thought they lacked the slam and jam compared to solid states... then as I grew older & wiser I realized that c-j sound is golden. you really need to mature to appreciate this type of sound. you just cannot and defintely will not (in my opinion) be able to enjoy true musicality listening to solid state devices. trust the industry; check out the true high-end audio brands; Audio research, VTL, Manley Labs, Cary Audio, Lamm, Jolida, Jadis, Quick Silver, Audio Note, Quad and host of others; they all have one major component in common - tubes!!! and yes when these tubes get the sound right, my golly does it sound just right!
if you can get hold of any c-j "tube amp" whether old or new, go for it! you won't be disappointed. just remember to partner these marvelous preamps with some excellent power amp, if not you are degrading the chain down the line, rather than elevating the chain up towards the end source which are your speakers. when the signal / signals travel from your main source components down to the preamp stage and onto the driver / power amp stage, it must not de-grade rather the signal should be preserved (this is why c-j and a very few others invert phase at the outputs, which is actually preserving the phase). by doing just this, the signal passes virtually untouched and straight onto the power amp sections. then with a very high quality and stable power amp design, the music will come to life through your speakers. with c-j gear you also must have very good high quality nuetral cable / interconnects and speaker wire, that conveys the music and not reshapes the musical passage. this will also have an effect to the way and time you listen. in other words when I turn the system on and start listening, you really cannot stop listening, the sound becomes more pure and more lucid with every hour of playback, hence you don't feel any fatigue at all.
another key element to good pure sound is the right choice of AC power cords. I have used Zion before, made from a company called Jas Audio; they are very good cords for the money. you can get better, which will cost more, if you can afford it, go for it! also with inter-connects and speaker cable; I used to use Nordost (blue heaven interconnects, and red dawn speaker cable) when I had the c-j premier 11A / PFR combo with the maggie MG3.5/R. I did notice at the time the sound to be slightly too bright, especially with that silver wire plating the highs were well... too high! mids and bass were fine, not so warm though. when I tried high quality copper desings from Cardas Audio (quadlink series 5) speaker cable and Audio Note interconnects, I noticed the sound became more lucid, mid range more flowing and highs were just right! the listener fatigue levels were non-existant! and this is exactly what you want from a system, pure music, and the enjoyment of your favorite tracks, whatever the genre maybe.
you don't want a system that is capable of house shattering bass, or highs that will kill your ears, or kill the cat, plus mid-range that will make your granny have a heart attack. no, no, non of that nonsence! what you want is a sound that is just right, one that hepls you to relax after a hard days work, one that invites you into the performance and one that elivers the emotions for you to experience. this is what conrad johnson is all about. if you have not experienced c-j, yet, please do so!

Similar Products Used: PV8, PFR, Audio research LS series something cannot remember (very old pre-amp designed in the early 90's) also VTL and Sonic Frontiers SFL-1. non of them sounded as good and pure as the c-j designs, although Audio research came quite close...
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
henner   Audio Enthusiast [Jan 06, 2004]
Strength:

Convincingly musical sound and good imaging. Excellent soundstage depth. Lots of gain. Reliable.

Weakness:

Not a set and forget piece. Not solid state clean and quiet. Cost of retubing.

You can't really say this is the best tube preamp for what I paid 7 years ago- $900 new, with a slight discount. The price went up $200 soon after I got it and its replacement, the pv10B is $400 more...at that time it was about the only tube preamp for $900 that was'nt a kit or made in China. The sound is very good, a music lovers preamp...not the last word in detail or bass tightness, but smooth and musical with a good soundstage. When I took it out and did a direct feed to the power amp, and then put it back in, what it does is add depth and weight to instruments, but it also reduces transparency, overall I like what it does. However, tubes are never solid state quiet when it comes to noise and tube microphonics, careful placement will reduce but not eliminate it. This is not set and forget gear. Depending on your speakers- the pv10 is apt to let out some ringing or whining- metal domes like the epos and monitor audio I have used are probably more apt to reveal this than soft dome tweeters. There are alot of tubes that simply don't work in the pv10, its main downside is it is difficult to retube with something that works- this is apparently due to the zero feedback circuit and power supply vibrations. Other than that the PV10AL's a hard to beat value, though I'm not sure the PV10B replacement at $1300 makes the PV10 the bargain it once was.

Similar Products Used: ADCOM 555
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Ev   Audio Enthusiast [Jan 16, 2000]
Strength:

Liquidity, musicality, timbral accuracy

Weakness:

Slightly Noisy (this critique is minor); tube changes every 2-3 years (easy to do)

I have used this pre-amp coupled with a CJ MF2100 driving Aerius speakers with a Naim 3.5 CD player and Audioquest cables for over 4 years. The PV-10AL is a phenomenal bargain. I don't think there is anything in the $1000 range that comes close.

If you are reticent to buy anything with tubes as I was, audition this piece. Compare it to any solid state pre-amp. Metallic hash and grain will disappear. Your soundstage will deepen. Instruments, and more importantly voices, will sound tonally correct and more lifelike. Resistance will be futile.

Why 4 stars then? Because I have heard better. Of course, you will have to spend $2500 and up for better.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Bill Southerland   Audiophile [Sep 06, 2000]
Strength:

warm,realistic tonalities. Clean,rich mids.

Weakness:

No deep(sub)bass

Well,I have been using a yamaha RX-V995 for quite some time,and to tell you the truth,it has fared well in both theater and audio. Now,I have always known that separates are far superior to recievers,but affordability is an issue for evryone at one degree or another. Me being a musician only made my financial rise to separates glory as painstaking as the vietnam war!! But while saving I was able to make most of the lag time by auditioning as many 2 channel systems as my ears could handel. Soon enough,one of the biggest debates in the audio world came face to face with me....Solid state or tubes??? Well I had already not liked the idea of tubes because of having to change them,the supposed lack of low end,etc... It just sounded as if they needed more care and perfect conditioning than a new born!
Then,the PV-10AL waltzed it's way into my life. I visited my local specialty store one fine spring afternoon and auditioned this piece with it's younger cousin,the sonographe SA-250. WOW! I was absolutely astonished! The sound,instead of coming from two speakers,was seamless. Miles and Coltrane felt present. Instrments had their own place within the expansive soundstage.True there was a lack of truly deep bass,but the plentiful bass that was present was some of the most clean and accurate presentation of the lower frequency range.I was in awe. Perhaps the most important factor for me was the undeniable warmth and truth to each instruments showcase this preamp provided. I was in love. For posterities sake however, I had the salesperson hook up the SC-26 solid state preamp. Unbelievable!!! I did get a bit more bump in the low end,but all that soundstaging,warmth,and naturalness was replaced with metallic harsh!!! This said to me boatloads on not only tubes vs ss,but the importance of a preamp"s job!
I immediately went back to the PV-10AL and played all kinds of music through the system.Everything from Miles to Maddonna to Metallica,and everything in between. The transparancy,warmth,neutrality.....EVERYTHING sounded euphoric! Now,I am fully aware that there is better and while my system is high end,it is entry level.I also am aware that you would have to pay AT LEAST double,if not triple to get the most incredible sounds this preamp emits!!

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Matt Schmidt   an Audiophile [Mar 31, 1999]

For the low-middle budgeted audiophile, this pre takes the cake. I have it combined with a pair of solid-state monoblocks, and it shines! The smoothness of sound and the exceptional ability to provide spaciousness for any speaker makes the PV10 an incerible piece of equiptment. I listened to the PV12, but for twice the price it just didn't seem worth it to me at the time. Don't get me wrong, the 12 in an amazing piece. I heard the Classe, Marantz, and the like, but found that for the money, and the fact that the tubes provided a certain musicality that solid state can't provide in the price range, the PV10 is the way to go.
5 stars based on sound quality for the price.

Associated equiptment:

CD Transport: Marantz CD-63mkII
D/A converter: California Audio Labs ALPHA DAC
Preamp: Conrad Johnson PV10AL
Amplifier(s): Rotel RMB100 monoblocks (pair)
Speakers: Pardigm Phantom speakers
Connected with: MIT Digital reference cable
MI330 Tube interconnects
MI330 interconnects
MIT T2 speakers cables

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Mark   a Casual Listener [May 01, 1999]

Simply - this pre-amp offers amazing sound and is fantastic value to boot.
Equipment :
Rega Planet CD
Legacy High Current Power Amp
Martin Logan Aerusi
Ensemble Voiceflux Speaker Cable

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
null 1   an Audiophile [Aug 07, 1999]

I love my pv10al. nothing comes close to it for the money. My system,Digital audio research dac 5, SCE Harmonic Recovery System,Acurus CD TRansport, Conrad Johnson PV10AL, Conrad Johnson MF 2200, NHT SA-3 amp, NhT VT-2 Speakers, interconnects MIT 2,speaker wire MIT 2 made my great system even better- Forget the price-BUY THE UNIT.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Mark   an Audiophile [Sep 17, 1999]

Like most tube equipment (aside from Audio Research tube gear) this C-J preamp is very musical and airy sounding. No harshness is to be found in this peice.

The sound is a nice improvement over my Yamaha DSP-A1G. Its not really fair to compare since the PV-10A was intended for 2-channel music and the Yamaha was intended really for 7-channel home-theater audio.

The C-J is smooth and warm, the Yamaha is rapid and can be harsh. The yamaha only exceeds in the bass area. Not by much but is a little tighter. You give up a lot in the midrange and highs however.

I am looking into buying a tube poweramp though.
Any opinions on the following?

C-J MV-55
C-J Premeire 11a
Marantz 8B and 9s
Quad II monoblocks

Bought this preamplifier for $566 shipped with NOS Mullard 12AU7's btw.

-Mark

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Timothy Ng   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 06, 2001]
Strength:

Brilliant,Clarity,details and sweetness

Weakness:

none that I know of

I actually bought a CJ-PV10BL and it sounds incredible with a CJ-MV55. There is no lack of base like a PV10AL. Female vocals especially sound very sweet and awsome. I also listened to a Premier 17LS with a power amp Premier 11, those are much much better than what I have, but I am satisfied what I can afford. Compare between the MV55+PV10BL and Premier 11+ Premier 17LS, there is no big different acoustically. The system consits of :
Preamp CJ 10BL
Power amp CJ MV55
CD player YBA Integre
Speakers JMR Trente and stands
Interconnect cables two pairs of .5m Kimber KCAG
Speaker cables Pair of 8 feet Kimber Monocle X

Similar Products Used: AR-LS8
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Glenn   Audiophile [Mar 06, 2001]

I brought this pre amp home to audition along with the next step up in the CJ line at that time the PV-12 AL. My impression of the PV 10 AL was that the highs were too rolled off and the bass was muddy sounding compared to a passive PS Audio 6.1 I owned and had available for testing. The PV-12AL on the other hand sounded incredible with crystaline highs and well defined tight detailed bass, exactly what the PV 10 AL lacked. It easily beat out the PV 10AL and in my opinion sounded at least 3 times as good and also seemed much better built. I preferred the passive PS Audio unit over the PV 10AL but preferred the PV 12AL over both. I noticed Stereophile Magazine placed the PV 10 as Class B. Where does this put the PV 12AL? Class A+? Amp used was McCormack DNA .5 Deluxe.

OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
3
Showing 1-10 of 10  

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